How to Rebuild Trust After an Affair

Infidelity does serious harm to a marriage – that’s something we can all agree on. Feelings of betrayal, guilt, anger, and a sense of total disruption are to be expected, but when everything feels like it has fallen apart – you CAN rebuild trust, overcome the hurt, and get your marriage back on track.

Where can you possibly begin though?

First, it’s important to understand that rebuilding trust in a marriage takes time. The person who cheated has a long road ahead of them, showing their partner that they understand the damage they’ve caused, proving that they can be trusted, and showing their partner that they are willing to accept responsibility for their actions.

An affair does not mean it's over for good!
An affair does not mean it’s over for good!

This won’t happen over night, of course, and the wronged member of the relationship must navigate many difficult emotions and decisions in the aftermath of an affair, particularly the decision to forgive their partner and begin working toward the future.

Now, this process of forgiveness and rebuilding trust will be a little different for every couple, but there are a few important components that are necessary to move beyond the pain and get your marriage back on track.

First, honesty. The hurt person needs to be able to talk openly about their feelings without the other party becoming defensive. This isn’t a blaming session, or a chance to use the offending partner as a verbal punching bag, though. Instead, this raw and painful conversation is important to make sure the person who had the affair truly realizes the impact of their actions.

It is essential to share this pain together, to face the reality of the affair head on, otherwise, you won’t be able to get to a place of rebuilding – the barriers of unspoken pain will not go away until a couple can talk about them openly.

After an honest, heartfelt apology and an open discussion about the pain that has been caused, the next part is one of the most difficult for people who have been cheated on: admitting a certain amount of mutual responsibility.

When affairs happen, it’s usually because of the climate of the relationship. While the person who committed the adultery certainly made a damaging choice, it’s important for members of the marriage to look realistically at the state of their relationship before the affair, and assess what they were both doing to create the situations that led to infidelity.

Most often, infidelity occurs because the emotional and physical needs of one party are not being met. While the “blame” can still lie on the person who committed the adultery, it’s unrealistic (and unhealthy) to think the situation is entirely one-sided. Evaluate the way you were communicating, the amount of time you were spending together, and the attentiveness to each other’s emotional and physical needs.

By examining the issues in the relationship that lead one person to cheat, couples can see things they need to improve as they move forward, both to rebuild the marriage stronger than it was before, and to avoid the issues that could lead to another affair in the future. Again, this takes both members of a couple.

You may have to lay some ground rules in the aftermath – like a policy about internet use or cell phone contact – to help reestablish trust, based on tangible proof that the offending spouse has stopped the affair.

It will also be difficult to rebuild sexual intimacy, but it’s not impossible! Like the rest of this process, it will take time, patience, and honesty with one another. Because affairs can lead to feelings of insecurity for the wronged, and feelings of guilt and pressure to preform for the wrongdoer, rekindling sexual intimacy can be a challenge. Just like the other steps of the process, it’s best to take things slow, and always with openness and honesty.

As couples traverse this difficult time, eventually the pain will start to fade and trust will begin to return. It’s important to remember that you aren’t alone, that many, many couples have been through similar situations, and come out the other side with a stronger, more stable marriage than before.

It will not be an easy process, but eventually people can find forgiveness and trust, so long as they are willing to work for it. As trust rebuilds and the pain begins to fade, couples can recognize that the past is the past, and cannot be changed. If they truly want to make the marriage work, they can accept this painful part of their lives, put it behind them, and focus their efforts on creating a happy, healthy future!

Want to know more about how to keep your marriage loving, strong and healthy? Check out our StrongMarriageNow System.

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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders, StrongMarriageNow.com

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3 comments

julie 9 years ago

yes my husband had a affair,and is very sorry,but when he gets drunk he brings up the affair and states to me that it meant nothing to him and he says he never slept with her,but i dont believe him,and i tell him that.he keeps saying that one day all the truth will come out,i dont understand what he is saying,i believe my husband is a narcisst and life with him has been a battle,he has now calmed down alot but i always think he will do something out of the norm,like have a another affair,i feel this way because he has stopped seeing his friends because all his friends are no hopers and all have cheated on their wives.i suppose you can say you become the personwho you hang around with,he loved that life,as he did what he wanted untill i spoke up but it was to late he was already having the affair,i resent him for not wanting to be with me and do things together ,if only he wanted to we wouldnt be facing this heart ache.i feel he wants his freedom back and also wants to be a good husband but his friends are slowly pulling him back and this is what i am scared will happen,i feel he is not a strong enough person to say no for along time,i am just living each day at a time,im scared to become to trusting of him as he is a weak person who is easily pushed by others to do the wrong thing.its been 2 years since the affair and still i have my doubts should i trust him.i love him but i feel he doesnt love me he says loves me because im the mother of his children and that hurts,but him been a narcissit i can understand,why he says that.i feel im trying to hard to please him and have been all our married life,he has made me feel that im just not good enough for him and still do now.im stuck and dont know what steps to take next to heal my self of my husbands actions

Marie 9 years ago

How can you learn to trust someone again when the affair went on for more than 6 months, my husband told me he was going to leave me for this other woman and her children, he had her coming to our home while I was at work and his work while he worked out of town, he introduced her to our daughter, he invited her to a social gathering that we were both at, and even when he said it was over he continued to lie for another 3 months continuing to see her. I met the woman and she told me about all their conversations, how they talked about me and laughed at me. I know what she said is true because he said the same things to me when he would get mad at me. This affair is not the first but it was the last I would deal with! We had tried marriage counseling 3 times, finally the marriage counselor said that I should leave him. he has gotten on this website and print it off all these things about marriage and saving your marriage and forwarded these things to me. this one has gotten under my skin because you say that I have to take some responsibility for what caused his actions. I hate to break it to you Dr Dana, but sometimes bad people do bad things without reason. and sometimes when trust is broken by a dishonest person who continues to be dishonest, there can NEVER be trust!

julie 9 years ago

i understand what you are saying.and many times i think that he will do it again,but part of the healing is to learn to trust and i can say now that after 2 years and 3 months i am begining to trust him,as i have stopped checking the mobile for odd numbers and stopped checking he kms in the car.i have found a job and have finaly got some confidence back,i have moments when i am overwelmed by what he has done and i just tell my self,WHAT EVER WILL BE WILL BE and i have given it my best to make it work from my end ,so if he stuffs up he knows that there will be no more forgiving. me too like you have thought that a mean a nasty person like my husband will never change,and so much has happened in our life that he had to think twice about what will be better for him and the family and he has chosen us and not his friends who are just no good for him as they are the type of friends who have also had affairs and you know the saying YOU BECOME WHO YOU HANG AROUND WITH and this is what he was.i have not been to any counselling but have been on the net for advice and it has hepled i have learned about narcisistic people and how to handle them,how to make it work for you,i have sat down with my husband and exchanged stories about my bad child hood and he has also told me about his,we have a better relation ship now and everyday is better so far so good and i hope it continues.